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Supreme Court Delays Decision On Abortion Pill Case; Durbin Invites Chief Justice Roberts To Testify On Thomas Ethics Reports; Suspect On The Run After 6-Year Old, Parents Shot Over Ball.; U.S. Deploying "Additional Capabilities" Near Sudan To Assist With Potential Embassy Evacuation; McCarthy Unveils Debt Ceiling Plan, Calls For Negotiations. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired April 20, 2023 - 12:30   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: The White House press secretary today says, sorry, we can't do that.


KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I understand people are frustrated. What they're trying to do is unprecedented. But if we were to set aside a court decision, that would be unprecedented as well. So we can't do that. But what we can promise is that we are going to fight. We are going to fight for women's reproductive rights.


KING: They just don't know yet what that fight is going to look like --


KING: -- because they're waiting on the justices.

MATTINGLY: I think what you just heard from Karine Jean-Pierre and the tension between the advocacy side and the White House is one that actually extends back to Roe versus Wade and what the White House was willing to do or not willing to do. Willing to put on the table or not willing to put on the table in response.

And I think the difference, perhaps from some of the outside groups and where the White House is, is their counsel's office and what they feel like, not just in the near term, not just politically, what might feel good or might create some opening to help address some of these issues. But the precedent it would set long term going forward, I think, that's at the center of the White House refusal to go down that path.

That being said, I think maybe unlike the post-Roe period of time where some of the folks in the outside felt like the administration wasn't prepared to respond substantively from a policy perspective in the limited ways that they could. This, I think, is a different game. To Joan's point, they will fight on the legal side. They want this case to go their way. They are working intensively behind the scenes to have some options, workarounds, maybe deferred prosecution types of issues to have on the table and ready to roll out if it doesn't go their way.

KING: And then, of course, they'll have the 2024 campaign where this is going to be again, an animating issue especially for the Democrats. The question is, how do Republicans handle it? This was a Trump appointed judge where in this conversation about the Supreme Court, because of a Trump appointed judge in West Texas.

The Florida governor and likely presidential candidate Ron DeSantis on the Republican side just signed a six-week abortion ban in the state of Florida. There are some Republicans, even those who say they're pro-life or antiabortion, like Nancy Mace of South Carolina, who say Republicans, pay attention to elections, to what just happened in Wisconsin, to what happened last year in Kansas. Pay attention.


REP. NANCY MACE (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: We haven't learned anything if we're going to sign a six-week ban, mandating rape victims reported to police to get an exception and do it in the dead of night, that is not where the American people are. You can be pro-life and be pro-woman, the two are not mutually exclusive.

And as a rape victim, I want Ron DeSantis to know what rape victims have to go through. We will not win the popular vote in '24 if we continue down this path of extremism.


KING: All right. She's sharing an intense personal experience to try to make the point largely to the men in the Republican Party, please think about this.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And it's a lonely voice in the Republican Party right now. You don't hear a lot of people publicly backing her up. And, I mean, just speaking from an ideological perspective, I mean, one of the things about Dobbs is that it kicked it back to the states. It was state decision.

And with this FDA ruling, that's not a state's rights issue. And it also, and you said this in the opening, it opens up all sorts of drugs that could be challenged. And a judge would be making the interpretation if a vaccine is something that can be distributed. I mean, this really does -- it has such a -- it could potentially have such a far reaching effect should they decide, you know, a certain way on this particular case.

KING: As we wait, let's circle back to the Clarence Thomas and the ethics question. The Supreme Court does not have very stringent ethics standards. This is a huge issue now with this ProPublica reporting, which has been fantastic about Justice Thomas just essentially ignoring, even ignoring the existing financial disclosure rules. Let alone trying to get away with those stuff.

Dick Durbin says, bring the Chief Justice up. Please come up, sir. Let's talk about this. You've spoken to him about this. Do the Democrats in the Senate have any reasonable hope they can, a, do anything legislatively about this, or, b, just put so much pressure on Roberts that he feels he has to do something right?

CAMILA DECHALUS, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Right. When I talked to Durbin yesterday, one of the things that we talked about was almost like this pressure campaign that they can put a little bit more urgency on the justices to either take up adopting ethics code themselves, or prompt more lawmakers to start calling for, hey, let's start doing something about this.

We're now seeing how big of a growing problem this is. You know, there are restrictions and regulations put in place, but clearly there's not enough oversight on it. And so when I talked to both Democrats and Republicans about this issue, almost every single Democrat I talked to said, yes, we need to adopt some type of ethics code.

Some even called for him to step down formally, Clarence Thomas. But then a lot of Republicans just said, you know, they need to deal with this issue amongst themselves. Who are we as members of Congress to take on this issue? Only one lawmaker on the Republican side said that they were just open to learning what kind of ethics code they could have potentially adopt to put on the Supreme Court.

KING: So can you button this up for us? The Democrats don't have the votes. They can bring attention to the issue. They don't have the votes to pass a new ethics standard. Would the Chief Justice ever get in the room with the other colleagues and say --


KING: -- sorry, ladies and gentlemen, we have to do this?

BISKUPIC: OK, so this letter just came like a half hour ago. I reached out to the court. No answer yet. Understandably, they've given the chief a certain day, May 2, 10:00 a.m., be there. I think not wanting to preempt how he's going to weigh this. This is a very -- a man who appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee in September of 2005 when he was up for a nomination.


He was forced to return for the Trump impeachment in January of 2020. I actually don't think he'd be interested in coming before it. I think that he -- I think he would -- Dick Durbin makes a pitch at the end saying, your appearance could help strengthen trust in public institutions. I think the chief wants to strengthen public trust in the Supreme Court.

I don't necessarily believe that he thinks showing up before the senators is something that would do that. But we might see something coming from the court to instill some confidence in the fact that they will adopt some sort of form of (INAUDIBLE). KING: That would be welcome. If he doesn't want to go to Congress, say, there's no need for me to come to Congress.


KING: Because look what we are prepared to do. Not going to hold my breath.

When we come back, an incredibly sad story. A six-year-old North Carolina girl and her parents shot after a basketball rolled into her neighbor's yard. The shooting, the latest in a series of incidents raising serious questions about the state of guns in America.



KING: Now to another senseless act of violence, this time in North Carolina. A suspect on the run after a six-year-old girl and her parents were shot after neighbors say they tried to retrieve a basketball that rolled into a nearby yard.

Take a look at this. The six-year-old hit by bullet fragments. Her dad remains in the hospital. Meanwhile, the six-year-old left with questions. No child should ever have to ask.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't even know the man. Why did you shoot my daddy and me? Tried to shoot a kid's dad.


KING: Police are searching for this man, 24-year-old Robert Singletary. He's considered armed and dangerous. Meanwhile, this act of violence, of course, just the latest in a string of shootings across the country.

Our reporters are back at the table with us. Just in the last week, Ralph Yarl goes to pick up his siblings and goes to the wrong address. He is shot. Kaylin Gillis, driving with some friends, drove up a wrong driveway as they were turning around. She is shot.

Payton Washington is part of an elite cheer group, apparently in a supermarket parking lot. A bunch of girls approach the wrong car. Guy jumps out with a gun as the girls try to run away, opens fire.

You can't legislate that. You can't, I don't think, but what is the conversation about this as it happens? Or are you supposed to just shrug and say, you know, OK, this is everyday America, whatever?

MATTINGLY: I mean, I think to the extent that the country is at the latter point, it's tragic and horrifying and should never be plausible in a developed society or country. And yet I'm still fairly sure that a large portion of the country is at that point. And I think the difficulty, particularly in the last three or four days, you expect when tragedies or horrors occur, that there's something clean.

You can say, if we only did this, it would address this. If we did, x, y would no longer be plausible. And I think the difficulty here for all of the gun reforms that have been proposed, for all the things that have been laid out, the obviously, long standing battle between the two sides related to guns, this is a much deeper societal -- I don't even know the right word for it.

Other than every time you see it, you think, how is it possible that we live in this space? And if there's no clean answer to it, where do you go from here? And I'm not smart enough to figure that out. I just know that you can't ignore what's happening right now. Yes, guns are an issue, but this is deeper than that.

But there's not sort of, let's all get in a room and talk about it, leave our politics outside the room. Let's just come in and talk about it as parents or as members of community. Instead, this does tend to break down red state, blue state.

Washington did pass some modest gun reforms last year. Just forget about it. Now that the House Republicans have the -- Republicans have the majority in the House, we're getting closer to 2024, Washington is most unlikely to do anything. If you look at the states, Michigan, the elections do matter if you support gun safety reforms.

Michigan Democrats had a big year last year, and what have they done. Universal background checks have passed. They've also passed a new red flag bill. Washington State, democratic governor, democratic legislature has passed a ban on semiautomatic rifles. Florida is the flip side. A big Republican majority in the legislature, Republican governor permitless concealed carry law passed.

Tennessee is kind of a little bit of both, if you will. They've passed a bill protecting gun companies from lawsuits. But they've also -- the governor is trying to get essentially a red flag law. They call it order protection law.

So we have these state by state tragedies and then you have these state by state political conversations.

DECHALUS: Right. I think a lot of people have just given up on Congress to do anything about it. I've talked to a lot of Democrats, and even though they want to put something forward and really vote on it, they just simply don't have the majority and they do not have the vote.

So looking at Congress, it's almost to say, even though this is one of Biden's top issues and then something that he keeps calling on Congress to do, they just simply do not have the votes. And so, a lot of people are looking towards the state and looking towards their governors to say, OK, we know Congress can't pass something on a federal level, but what can we do on the state level?

And there's a lot of political implications. Every shooting that happens, every mass shooting that occurs. I was just reading something that past -- this past year, there's been 130 mass shootings, right? Those statistics, those numbers, those human faces that get put to every tragedy, that's going to have political implications to the elections to come.

KING: The elections to come part, the Brady Reform, Brady united against gun violence group named for Ronald Reagan's press secretary. Long conversation, Jim Brady, who was shot. They have a new video out and it's clear.


Yes, they want Congress to do something, but this is about organizing people heading into the next election.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a sound of gunfire. Two or three of my friends were hit. Still under heavy fire. I got up and ran as fast as I could. A bullet hit me and I blacked out. I think about the scars we have, the deeper wounds, the ones that will never fully heal.

This is a story of six-year-old Josh, who was shot alongside his friends at a mass shooting at a day camp in Los Angeles.


KING: As we watch the state by state action, I guess my question is, when you have the abortion debate and you have this gun debate, Democrats do think in the right places. You see the activism in Tennessee. Democrats are not going to win Tennessee, but can you activate people in the suburbs in a way that helps the Democrats politically, say, you know, you should listen to us on these issues?

KUCINICH: That's how you create the political will to do this. You galvanize the base and you galvanize and you try to, I mean, sometimes minds are changed as this becomes more widespread. I don't know how good ads do at this point, but some of the activism that we all have covered on the ground are changing state legislatures. They are changing in small ways.

And -- but it is very state by state, as you see right there. But political will is what is lacking on the federal level in Congress right now, and, you know, they're trying to build bench, the gun safety advocates from the ground up.

KING: From the ground up. And just the trust to get in a room and talk about things.

When we come back, an emerging you might call it a break last, an emergency plan from the Pentagon. The U.S. is deploying more troops near Sudan in case that embassy comes under attack.



KING: Some important developing news out of the Pentagon now. The United States military deploying what it calls, quote, additional capabilities near Sudan.

Oren Liebermann is live at the Pentagon with the details. Oren, what do we know here?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: John, we know that the U.S. has moved forces near Sudan in the event of a contingency. Those forces would be used, if necessary to secure an embassy and evacuate an embassy, depending on the situation in Sudan, in Khartoum.

We've learned from a U.S. defense official that includes hundreds of Marines in Djibouti, at Camp Lemonnier, including aircraft. Those aircraft, the defense official says, would be capable of moving in ground forces if the order comes, if that call comes into Sudan to secure the embassy, and if it comes to that, to evacuate the embassy.

The question here, of course, is also timing. A senior U.S. official says this isn't imminent. The big question, is there a ceasefire that sustained that is long enough on the ground there between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces that would allow for those aircraft to get in, for those forces to get in, to secure the embassy, and to move on out?

They're looking at the upcoming Eid al-Fitr holiday in the coming days to see if that leads to a sustained ceasefire that would allow for some of this to happen. That's what they're watching now, the upcoming holiday in the days. Again, those forces, hundreds of Marines already ready to go at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti should the order come. John?

KING: Oren Liebermann, sure you'll keep us posted as this plays out. Oren, thank you.

Moving now to a big test of wills between President Biden and House Republicans. That test of wills nearing a key juncture. Speaker Kevin McCarthy trying to get the 218 votes he needs to pass the list of GOP demands in exchange for raising the government's borrowing limits.

Close, but not there yet is the current House Republican math. The White House says it's a non-starter anyway.


JEAN-PIERRE: When it comes to the full faith and credit of our nation to avoid default, that is something that should be done without conditions. That is something that should not be negotiated on. That is something that has happened more than 60 times before.


KING: Our great reporter is still back with us. So the White House says, do whatever you want. We're not negotiating over this. There are some cracks. Joe Manchin and the Senate endorses the House Republican plan.

MATTINGLY: Buckle up. Buckle up. Look, the White House feels like it has the political high ground on this issue. They feel like they've got historical precedent to some degree, but more than anything else, they feel like publicly they're in the right place on this and have no incentive to negotiate or try and add things onto this at this point. That's what makes this vote for House Republicans.

Debt on arrival in Senate, but never be considered by the President to keep the choreography to potentially have negotiations. They have to pass this bill. This is a massive test for the speaker.

KING: Massive test for the speaker. If you just show $1.5 trillion debt limit increase, keeps rolls funding back to 2022 levels, the Republicans don't say how they would get there back to '22 levels. That's the lever the Democrats are going to pull. Well, if you're going to cut all that spending, what are you going to cut?

KUCINICH: They can put whatever they want in there. Feels right. This isn't going anywhere. And they're going to spend political capital within their conference haggling over what's essentially a messaging bill. And the effect of this, at the end of the day, is just going to get Congress closer to the brink, closer to Day X, whenever that may be. And, you know, I have a feeling we're all going to be there as the minutes tick down, because that's how they work up far.

KING: I think the immediate question is, can McCarthy get to 218? He can only afford to lose four. And we saw the Democrats were messy in a lot of early in the Biden administration. The Democrats were messy. They were fighting in public. The Republicans are doing that now. But can he get to 218?


DECHALUS: That's going to be the big question, and it still has yet to be seen. I've talked to some Republicans that are bent on seeing some spending cuts, and they say, hey, my constituents back home want to see us stand up and fight. And I feel like I'm not going to compromise that.

So it's this one thing that it is partly a messaging bill, but when he gets to the closer to the deadline of it, that's when we're going to see more compromise be made. But at this point in time, nobody's willing to budge. They want to see their conditions and their terms met in here.

KING: First big test for the speaker. First really big test for divided government. I like that.

Phil Mattingly, remember, quote him. Buckle up.

Thanks for your time on Inside Politics today. CNN News Central starts after a quick break. Enjoy your day.